Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Travel Diary: Jan 2 - 3, 2011

Day 16 - Sunday - Jan 2

We've got a busy day planned. We intend on visiting the city zoo, which is supposed to be huge. After the best breakfast ever, we leave at 11.00 for the zoo, partaking in some shopping and roaming around the marketplace first, and then heading to the zoo in 2 cycle-rickshaws (Rs.15/rickshaw). It's only 1-2 kms away. The ride is a fun first-time experience.

The zoo is crowded. We have to stand in a long line to buy tickets. It's Rs.10/adult and another Rs.10 for still cameras. Inside, it's huge. A few square kilometres. Some animals have decent natural-like enclosures. But it's sad that the elephants are chained. There are freely roaming monkeys all over the place. We also see tigers (the main draw), lions, leopards, leopard cats, hyena, jackal, giraffe, gharial, deer, hippos, African and Indian rhinos, eagle, kites and other birds.

It takes us 2-3 hours to walk around, seeing everything. I didn't even know Guwahati had a zoo till RB mentioned it. It's not in the LP. We leave for a late lunch, taking a bus to Delicacy restaurant. It's supposed to be really old and popular. We walk in and it looks posh and expensive. RB tells us he's brought us here because I've told him I'd like to try duck and pigeon, which are both delicacies here. Both are on the menu, retailing at Rs.180/plate. A full n.veg thali goes for Rs.340.

The duck meat is good. It tastes somewhere in between chicken and mutton. The pigeon curry is good too, though I'm not able to describe the taste. The only drawback would be the number of tiny bones in the dish. I'm happy. That's two more things crossed off my list of weird things to eat. And on my penultimate day too.

We return to Wireless by 4.30. Go to a place nearby to get online. Stay there for 2 hours. I finish an hour before the others. Wander outside to watch the construction work taking place on one section of the road at Wireless. Apparently, it's an election year, so they're trying to catch up with a lot of work after not touching the roads for 5 years. I remember what K told us that night at the river, about Assam being the most corrupt state in India, overtaking Bihar.

We return home for tea, then chill out at the terrace for an hour with a bonfire, drinks, and the house watchman and his superstitious stories. I realise I've lost my taste for alcohol. And then another delicious dinner of pork, pickled and non-pickled vegetables, rice and thick dahl.

ZP's neck has been aching all day, and it's getting progressively worse. He seems to be in a lot of pain. He has a very uncomfortable night.

Day 17 - Monday - Jan 3

I wake at 7.00. ZP is in a bad state. Needs to see a doctor immediately. He can hardly move his neck without hurting it. And he's supposed to catch a train to Kolkata today and then a connecting one to Mumbai tomorrow. RB and his dad drop us at a nursing home close by, on their way to work. 

While ZP sees a doctor, I go in search of an ATM that's not out of cash. Apparently they all get depleted over the weekend. I'm lucky on my 4th try. I return to the little hospital by cycle rickshaw (I've probably walked a kilometer looking for cash), and help ZP pay up. We then go to a pharmacy for some meds for him and return home by bus by 9.00 am. He's already feeling better after the injection they gave him.

We pack. I help ZP. We decide to carry one of his bags with us on the plane so he only has to take care of one bag on the train. RG leaves with him for the train station and to help him get our refund from where we had booked our original tickets from Tura, the ones we didn't use.

RG returns at just before lunchtime, and we go out to eat. I have a delicious roll. I'm so going to miss the food here. On our return we find a rickshaw driver who agrees to drop us to the airport for Rs.400. We leave right away with plenty of time to spare, which is a good thing since we get stuck in a major jam on the highway.

And our flight's delayed by an hour and a half. Luckily for us, we're taking the same plane all the way to Mumbai. No changing planes during the stop over in Delhi. We chill. And then board. We're in Mumbai in around 5 hours. Technically, it's Jan 4 by the time we arrive. Nice and cool in Mumbai, without being freezing. We enjoy the rickshaw ride home. Christmas decorations everywhere. Good to be back home.


1. Cherrapunjee is awesome. You can spend at least 4 days there. Friendly people, delicious food, natural beauty, greenery, an amazing valley, roads to drive around on & explore, bridges, waterfalls, caves. Must go back there for some caving, and just after the rains to enjoy the waterfalls. This is currently the best place in Meghalaya to go for a holiday.

2. Mizoram is beautiful too. I'd like to go back and spend at least a week or two travelling about. Unspoiled natural beauty, and lovely people.

3. The Christmas and New Year season is the absolute worst time to visit Meghalaya and Mizoram. Everyone is one leave, and everything shuts down at this time, even museums, national parks, shops, restaurants, and essential public and private transport.

4. Having your own transport would be an asset. Unlike other places in India like Ladakh, Himachal, Rajasthan, etc., cheap regular public transport is rare, forcing you to use expensive private transport, and so the N.E is not the most convenient place to go backpacking in India. The private transport that we got between towns was usually once a day, and always left at odd hours, wreaking havoc on our diets. And it was pricey - most of our expenses were transport-related, mainly shared Sumos and private buses.

5. Also, in general, most of Meghalaya (with the exception of Shillong and Cherrapunjee), and almost the whole of Mizoram, is not tourist friendly yet i.e tourism hasn't been developed here. There are beautiful places to see, but no one cares about promoting them. You have to work towards finding and enjoying them. There aren't any local tourism agencies to help you, no tourist friendly maps, no road signs, no transport, no publicity & little local help. Hence the extra time and expense needed, if you're travelling by yourself. Again, having your own transport would be preferable.

6. And lastly, inspite of all the time we spent in Assam, I still have to return to visit Kaziranga, Manas and a few other places. Next time.


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